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How to Clear Your Head When You're Overwhelmed


How to Clear Your Head When You're OverwhelmedIt happens to the best of us.

We're cruising along in life, minding our own damn business, and someone reminds us that we agreed to do that thing months ago.

Then we remember that we forgot to do that other thing.

And there's stuff to do around the house.

And your kid needs three dozen cupcakes for school. Tomorrow. And it's already 8:45pm. And they have to be store-bought and the grocery store closes in fifteen minutes and it takes you twelve minutes to get there. If you leave NOW.

And let's not even mention your job, your hobbies, your fitness classes, and the side hustle that you've been meaning to start for the last three years.

Kinda makes you want to pour a stiff drink and hide under the covers, huh?

The good news is, there's a solution.

The Foolproof Way to Clear Your Head When Your Task List and Commitments Threaten to Take Over Your Life

Marie Forleo calls it a mental colonic. Jack Canfield refers to it as "clearing up your messes and incompletes." Whatever you call it, this is a powerful two-part exercise to stop the swirling vortex that threatens to take over your sanity.

Part One: Brain Dump

Start by setting aside 10-15 minutes. Grab a piece of paper and a writing utensil, setting into your chair, and write down what we refer to in Release & Refine as Incompletes & Irritants. Some examples are

  • emails to send
  • lightbulbs that need repairing
  • a meeting that needs to be scheduled

Then add in commitments and other things you need to do:

  • buying cupcakes for your kid's classroom
  • shopping for groceries
  • going to your spin class

Finally, list the things that you want to do:

  • get a massage
  • enroll in that certification course
  • have monthly dates with your spouse or significant other

When you have reached into the corners of your mind and swept out every speck of dust, move on Part Two.

Part Two: Schedule It Out

Open your calendar (I use Google's) and schedule out the things that can be scheduled: your massage, the date you intend to enroll in your certification course, your spin class.

For the things that can't be effectively scheduled individually (emails to send, lightbulbs to replace), schedule a few hours on a weekend to make a serious dent in your list.

Keep the list with you. When you have a moment to get something done, or you're feeling a low-grade general anxiety, complete 1-2 items. I've become a big fan of Google Keep—the checkbox function alone makes it worth transferring a task list from paper to digital.

Why Writing Things Down Calms You Down

When you write your thoughts down, they no longer occupy what psychologists refer to as "cognitive load."

Basically, we all have a limited amount of available working memory. When our attention is split, we increase our cognitive load and use up valuable working memory. When our working memory is maxed out, we freak out and our anxiety levels increase. (Source: The Life Management Alliance.)

It follows, then, that writing things down decreases our anxiety levels, resulting in an overall state of calm.

The other cool thing about writing things down is that it activates the brain's Reticular Activating System (RAS), a group of cells that filters incoming information and rank-orders it in terms of importance. What we write down gets a higher level of importance attached to it. (Source: Indiana University School of Medicine.)

This creates an upward spiral effect. When you write things down, you

  • lighten your cognitive load AND
  • place importance on the things taking up valuable brain space WHICH
  • leads to those tasks getting done WHICH
  • further lightens your cognitive load

And so on and so forth. Cool, right?

Over to you

Have you tried brain dumping your messes and incompletes? And have you found mental clarity and peace afterwards? Leave a note in the comments section!


Wallet Goal Cards

Ready-Made Wallet Goal CardsWriting things down places importance on that piece of information. And what's more important than your Big-Ass Goal?

(Answer: nothing.)

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